My dad passed away in November, after a long, hard-fought battle with multiple sclerosis. Throughout it all, he maintained a strong relationship with his grandchildren. This story originally ran in the September issue of Hereford World.
We had been planning it for weeks. And boy, was it a great plan.
My dad – who has spent his lifetime in the cattle industry – was finally going to see our 10-year-old son, Nolan, show his Hereford heifers in person.
You see, dad has been bedridden in a nursing home for more than three years. He has been able to watch Nolan in the Junior National Hereford Expo show ring, thanks to the live coverage provided. But to see Nolan in person with those cattle? To watch him at the stalls and provide feedback and coaching in person? It just hasn’t been possible.
But we visited with the nursing home activities coordinator and found a local county fair open show only 30 minutes from the nursing home. They would be able to transfer dad into a special wheelchair and drive him to the show in their specially equipped activities van.
Truly, my dad and Nolan could not have been more excited.
My dad rarely calls me. But my phone was blowing up with dad checking in on the cattle, and he told anyone who entered his room about the upcoming trip. This man has shown many champions in Denver, but the anticipation of the 2018 Vanderburgh County Fair may very well have ranked right up there with the show on the Hill.
But just three days before the show, dad fell ill. We prayed for a miracle healing, for him to have the chance to get to the show. But by Saturday morning’s show, he just didn’t have the strength. And when he admitted he wasn’t feeling up to going, we knew he must really have not felt well.
The show must go on.
Nolan said he still needed to show – that “Papaw” would want him to do it. And he was right.
So the Lee family, along with my brother Willy’s help, ventured to the county fairgrounds where Nolan became the fourth generation of “Couches” to enter that ring.
Dad’s dear friend set up her laptop so he could watch a Facebook Messenger live video of the show. My grandma sat at the ringside, as she had done for her husband, son and grandchildren in years past. And Nolan and his heifer, Jenny, captured Champion Hereford Heifer and Reserve Grand Champion Heifer.
You couldn’t have wiped that smile off of dad or Nolan’s face if you tried.
But we really wanted my dad to have the chance to see Nolan’s heifers in person. And my husband, Craig, decided we were going to make it happen.
After the show, we loaded the heifers and drove to the nursing home. And Nolan led each of his heifers up to dad’s window, so dad could have a live view. Dad asked for them to be walked. He wanted to see them up close and at a distance. He gave his evaluation and talked to Nolan about each one.
Residents who were enjoying the beautiful day on the nursing home porch certainly perked up. Family members of those residents came up to get photos. Some said it was the best thing that they’ve seen in a long while.
And I promise – it is a memory we will cherish for a lifetime.
Finding the good in the tough.
I won’t lie. This has been one of the toughest seasons of my life. My dad would have been such an incredible coach and cheerleader for Nolan at every show he attends. I can only imagine the things he would learn from having “Papaw” at each of his shows or helping in the barns at home.
However, that’s not our reality. And that thinking won’t get us anywhere.
Instead, I encourage each of you to cherish every moment of having your parents in the stalls if you are so fortunate. I would imagine there are times when advice is unsolicited. And no family is perfect. But please don’t take for granted the true gift you have, with your parents sharing their wisdom and encouragement with your children in the show barn.
I am willing to bet you will be ever-so thankful for the memories of grandparents being there for their grandchildren, passing on traditions and encouragement that will last a lifetime.
As for us? We will always have that memory of the heifer at the window. And for that, I am truly thankful.